Category Archives: Bible Study

By Faith We Understand; By Faith We Live

Imperative to a Christian’s salvation is our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  We know this truth as detailed in the key verses of Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”  But our faith does not stop here, it only begins.  It’s from this faith step that each subsequent step of faith begins.  It’s through this faith in Jesus Christ that all faith must reside.  Hebrews 11:1-2 NKJV tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”  In this passage we have the assurance of the faith referenced in Ephesians, a guarantee of eternity in Christ Jesus.  The second verse of the passage describes to us that faith doesn’t occur at a particular point in our life, but it is a process by which we live the rest of our lives and through that faith, we provide a testimony to others.  It’s in this verse that the author points to the titans of biblical history and their great faith in God that carried them through their lives.  For it is, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 And it is by faith that we are to live, like the elders of the ancient days:

By Faith Abel offered sacrifice…

By Faith Enoch was taken up…

By Faith Noah prepared an ark…

By Faith Abraham was tested…

By Faith Sarah conceived…

By Faith Isaac offered blessings…

By Faith Jacob blessed his sons…

By Faith Joseph gave instructions…

By Faith Moses led the Exodus…

By Faith the walls of Jericho fell…

By Faith the harlot Rahab did not perish…

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.

 

 

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
Hebrews 11:4-40

This list is a litany of who’s who in the Old Testament.  Just as the author of Hebrews alludes to, no doubt he could go on and on with great examples of living by faith if time would permit him.

Living by faith is not limited to the Old Testament alone, Jesus makes it clear in His admonishment of the disciples (Matthew 17:19-20) that with faith the mere size of a mustard seed literally anything is possible, even the ability to physically move a mountain.  Why is it that we struggle so much then with steps of faith?  Surely if we faithfully stepped out of the boat like the Apostle Peter to answer Jesus’ call, we too could walk on water (Matthew 14:29-30).

But our nature is sinful.  Our flesh is wrought with sin that keeps us from this perfect faith and that’s why we sink in the water just like Peter.  But there too is hope for us, because like Peter we have Jesus right there with us.  And like with Peter, Jesus reaches down and lifts us up when our faith is weak, that in this moment our faith might be made perfect through Him. It’s in our weakest, most difficult moments when the waves are crashing all around us and the tempestuous sea is at her worst that faith is needed most.  If we would only keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the “Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) how easy it would be for Him to tell the stormy seas, “Be Still” that through it all we might be able to continue to walk on the sea towards Him.

By Faith We Live…

Prayer:  Our Prayer today is straightforward.  Let us follow the path of the apostles who said to the Lord, increase our faith. Luke 17:5 Pray that in all things the Lord increases your faith.  So that it will be by faith you live and by faith that you trust in Jesus.

Additional Study: Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Matthew 14:22-33

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Come Broken

 

Mark 10:46-52 46And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.

There are some wonderful hidden truths in the passage above, clearly overshadowed by the amazing miracle that Jesus performs in restoring the sight of the blind beggar Bartimaeus.  These truths are so powerful, they actually describe how we are called to approach the cross.  In verse 47, Bartimaeus gets word that Jesus is heading his way.  Now since he was blind and as a result, unable to work, he had no choice but to sit on the main road to Jericho and beg.  But at this instant Jesus is heading his way and at the moment he hears of Him, Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus! Son of David, have mercy on me!”  It’s impossible for written word to describe the desperation, the brokenness that he has in his voice as he yells out.  Even as those around him, no doubt a large crowd by now, try to quiet him down, Bartimaeus again yells out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  On a side note, this is a pretty ironic statement by the blind man; we know he is able to recognize the Messiah, through his declaration of “Son of David” while at the same time many of his Jewish counterparts are so blind spiritually they cannot make this recognition.  But it’s his desperation that stands out; his need for Jesus is so great that he’s no longer begging for money or food, but instead he begs for mercy from the only person that can grant it, Jesus Christ.  This is the same posture we are to take when we come to Jesus.  We must come broken, begging for mercy, recognizing the Messiah as our Lord and Savior, the only one who can give us the mercy we so desperately need.

Jesus’ response is so powerful, “What do you want me to do for you?”  I think it’s here we can draw parallel to Matthew 7:7-11

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus has presented him with the ultimate question and all Bartimaeus has to do is ask.  Understandably, given his condition, he asks for his sight to which Jesus’ reply reveals the truths of Matthew 7 as He says, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  The literal translation for this from the Greek text means “Go, thy faith hath saved thee.”  As the passage concludes the scripture gives us one more piece of insight, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.”  If we look at this same story in the Gospel of Luke 18:43 we read, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.  And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”  In both accounts, Bartimaeus doesn’t simply receive his sight then head off in another direction; instead, he follows Jesus on his way.  But in Luke’s account we read that not only does Bartimaeus glorify God, but all who saw gave praise to God.  Through a blind beggar, others were able to see the work of Jesus and give praise to God.

There are so many truths in this important passage that we can apply to our own lives.  The desperation and brokenness of Bartimaeus as he begs for mercy to Jesus, signifies the posture we should take as we approach the cross of Jesus, broken from our sins, crying out for mercy.  Through our faith in Jesus we are made well, literally saved from our sins.  As our Savior, He grants us mercy and gives us the grace we need to continue our journey, but instead of going our own way, we follow Him, now as Lord of our life.  And through the amazing gift of salvation, we not only glorify God, but others are able to see the work of Jesus in our lives, and they too give praise and glory to God.

“The Wind blows where it wishes”

The other day I checked in on a Bible Facebook group that I sometimes follow and in the comments was an interesting request.  One member, perhaps passing through, indicated that he was an atheist and would like for someone to provide a convincing argument that a divine entity existed.  Now, it’s at this point I must say I don’t know what compelled me to message him, nor had I prepared any sort of conversation.  I was just honestly wondering what might have persuaded him to be an atheist, where his beliefs came from, and what convincing argument he was looking for.  I’ll also quickly mention that as Christians we should care for each and every lost soul and I still pray that Christ might reveal himself to this young man, perhaps even through this site as I recount our conversation.

When I first mention a conversation with an atheist, the initial thought might be to take an apologetic route.  I don’t claim to be an expert on atheistic issues, but I felt like I should try to find out what his beliefs were and admittedly to determine where his thought process fell, i.e. relativism.  I asked questions along the lines of “Do you believe we are born with the ability to determine right from wrong” to which he answered no.  I then followed up attempting to probe deeper into those thoughts, but each time I was thwarted in MY efforts.  At this point I prayed, “Dear Lord guide my steps, my thoughts, let my words be Your words” and the young man’s next response was essentially let’s stop being so apologetic and cut to the chase.  And then it hit me and with all the sincerity of my heart I replied with:

Ahh I see, well forgive me. I was merely trying to understand where you were coming from. Without apologetics, you’re left with one thing standing in your way between understanding whether a divine entity exists or not.

See where apologetics fails is that it presumes that all things can be broken down into logical concepts, arguments if you will, that prove or disprove one point or another. While on the surface this makes sense, as it appeals to the very intellectual nature of our being, it lacks a key, necessary component and that is faith.

We can banter back and forth about relativistic points of view, to establish morality or whether a divine entity created the earth or not and that is all well and good, nothing wrong with that at all. But at the end of the day, without faith you and I are the same person. We both do what we want, when we want, and live each day doing the best we can.

Without my faith in the only One and True living God, I am an atheist. Without my faith that God loved His only Son so much that He sent Him to die on the cross for me and all of my disgusting sins, I am an atheist too. But I have that faith. And through my faith I am saved from those sins. And through that faith I have eternal life through my Savior. And that faith is all I need. Because if I’m wrong and everything I believe in is wrong, have I lost anything? No, you and I would end up in the same place after we die. But if I’m right and my faith is all that’s needed in this world, then that’s a big difference isn’t it?

At the end of the day that’s the separation between us <name>, it comes down to faith. Neither of us were granted a higher knowledge over the other or have seen some great revelation that leads us to our beliefs. I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and perhaps you want proof so that you can believe in a higher power, but in the end it’s faith you are searching for. But I’m afraid you won’t find it by searching, no one is going to provide you with the answer you’re looking for, it’s within you already and it’s up to you to believe.

“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” Romans 10:17

I’m sure it’s easy to look back on that and say, well you should’ve said this or that or phrased your response this way, but that’s the way it came out, so that’s the way it is.  Why is it that some have the capacity to have faith while others, like my young friend, seemingly do not, or at least not yet?  See what my friend, and so many others who are searching, long for is a god to mold into what they want.  What Christians have is a God that molds us to what He wants.  That’s the difference and it’s big.

In John 3, Jesus is approached by Nicodemus who says, “…Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2 ESV To which Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 ESV Ah, if only I had remembered this encounter before mine with my young friend, because here, it is Jesus who cuts to the chase.  He wastes no time in witnessing to Nicodemus.  He doesn’t even wait for him to ask the question, before He has already stated the answer.   Nicodemus is no fool, he understands the figurative language that Jesus is using, but nevertheless he asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  John 3:4 ESV He knows that his question is not a possibility, but as he’s picked up on Jesus’ analogy, he inquires more.  Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” John 3:5-7 ESV Jesus reemphasizes His figurative language by pointing out the spiritual cleansing and Spiritual rebirth necessary for salvation and essential to entering heaven.  It should be noted that being born of water in this passage does not refer to baptism, but rather the spiritual cleansing through being born again.   As though He was perceived the potential next question from Nicodemus, Jesus follows up by explaining the root of this rebirth does not come from man, but from the Spirit Himself.  “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 ESV

That last sentence of Jesus’ statement is so important to understanding our previous question of why is it that some people come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet others don’t.  It’s this passage that so clearly points out that it’s not a human decision.  Meaning it is not within us to “make a decision” without the power of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and in our hearts.  As Jesus indicates, the Spirit moves where He wishes and we never see Him, never know from where He comes, nor where He is going, but we see the impacts.  We see the impact on the lives changed by His presence.  Spiritual rebirth is as much or more a miracle than our original birth from the womb.

Our role as Christians is to preach the Gospel and expose nonbelievers to the Word of God. Mark 16:15 In accordance with this, in order to be faithful to Jesus’ commission, we need to be well equipped with a strong knowledge of the Bible, because it is through God’s Word that seeds of salvation are planted in the hearts of nonbelievers.  We can make rational arguments through apologetic presentations, present emotional “seeker sensitive” church services, and even present biblical truths, but without the power of the Holy Spirit, no true regeneration or even a desire for one can take place.

Prayer: My prayer is that the Holy Spirit reaches out to our unsaved friends and family that they might realize their need for a Savior in Jesus Christ.  That the Holy Spirit might bring them to repentance and that they might openly and willingly respond when this happens.  That the Spirit of the Lord might put each one of us in the path of the unsaved and that He might guide our steps, our thoughts, let our words be His words that we might be useful vessels in conveying the wonderful truths of the Word of God.

Additional Study: I Corinthians 2:6-16 ESV “6Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”-

10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”